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Fly Rod/Reel Review


A superior blend of performance and value, the Okuma Celilo Rod and Integrity Fly Reel

 

Date: 12/1/02
Tackle type: Fly Rod & Reel
Manufacturer: Okuma
Reviewer: Zander






Total Score: 8.91 + BEST VALUE AWARD

Okuma Integrity I 8/9 Fly Reel matched with Okuma Celilo 8/9WT. Fly-Rod.

Introduction:
Fly-fishing for Stripers is among the most exciting type of fishing that any angler can partake in. The fighting power of these stalwart fish is legendary, and with gargantuan stripers reaching over 50lbs, the demand placed on your tackle is colossal. We examine a set of rod and reels produced by Okuma that are designed to land the largest stripers without burning a hole in your wallet.
 

Okuma Celilo 8/9 Fly Rod Specifications

Pieces 2
Line Weight 8/9
Length 9'6"
Material High Modulus Graphite, Cork Handle, Cherry Wood Reel Seat
MSRP $64.99

Okuma Integrity I 8/9 Fly Reel Specifications

Design Large Arbor
Line Capacity 110yd/20lb
Spool Diameter 3 13/36"
Weight 8oz
Drag System 1 way clutch BB disk
Materials Cast Aluminum
MSRP $81.65


Impressions: If you are an avid TackleTour reader then you have read about other Okuma products reviewed by the team before. While most people will recognize Okuma for their spinning gear we were surprised to learn from Okuma's National Sales Manager, John Bretza, that Okuma also has one of the hottest selling fly reels in the industry. Last season Okuma sold over 50,000 of their Sierra and Integrity fly reels in the U.S. alone! We also discovered that many guides across the country chose the Integrity fly reels as standard issue on their boats because of the durability of their drag system coupled with the reel's great price.

 

We also had never had the opportunity to review any Okuma rod creation before, and was eager to examine the quality of these products. What we found out about this combo might surprise you. (Note: These two Okuma products are not sold together as a combo, but for our tests were paired together.)
 

The Integrity looks right at home on the Okuma Celilo rod

Lab Tests: Lab tests of the rod and reel included weight stress testing and drag pressure tests. The Celilo Rod comes in two pieces with all the flex occurring in the mid to top portion of the rod. The lower section is extremely rigid and made to bear some serious load pressure. The top section has the most flex from guide 6 and up. The rod was considered moderately sensitive in telegraph tests, but very durable in load bearing tests where the rod was able to hoist 7lbs of dead weight ,out of the water, without any fear of snapping the rod.

Set with a Shimano scale we were also impressed to see that the Integrity's Drag could bear 9.8lbs of counter-pressure without any slippage. In lower settings the Integrity's drag was very smooth and released line in a steady and constant quantity.

Very nice use of cherry wood for a well fitted reel seat

Field Test heaven: Blessed with arguably the best landlocked striped bass waters in the United States we were able to really put the Okuma combo to the test in famous San Luis Reservoir and O'Neill Forebay. These lakes are famous for holding every one of the world records in tippet classes for landlocked striped bass. Two famous anglers, Al Whitehurst and Len Beardon have successfully locked up every one of these records on these two bodies of water. What makes these waters the stuff of legend is the fact that they are fed by the massive "Central Valley Project" water pumps that suck in a plethora of fish that include Stripers, largemouth, shad, carp, sturgeon, and smelt, all from the productive California Delta. Even though O'Neill is much smaller the San Luis it is ideal for Fly-Fishing for stripers because of its extensive shallow and weedy flats, complete with drop offs and rocky outcroppings.

While the summer months are usually the best time to land a lunker, fishing on mild winter days can also be very productive. One thing to remember is that this area is notorious for high winds which can rise up at any time; often changing a calm day into a virtual nightmare for fly-fisherman who soon worry less about catching fish then avoiding mammoth swells in an effort to get off the lakes safely. Anglers can always call to receive the latest wind conditions for these two lakes at (800) 805-4805.

The Celilo features a removable fighting butt

The Test: Because low light conditions are best for stripers we devoted 2 days of sunrise to sunset fishing on both lakes. We loaded the Okuma Integrity with very fast sinking line from Scientific Anglers Mastery Series. We made sure to load plenty of backing on the line to make sure that we would not be spooled by all but the largest fish. The line capacity of the Integrity is good thanks to the enlarged spool. We then mounted up on our bass boat which is armed with multiple fish finders and flashers and  began searching for schooled up fish. (Having good electronics is a big plus for finding stripers, as these fish can change location quickly as they school together in search for baitfish.)

The Celilo's contoured grip is comfortable and functional

The Rod Feel: Okuma really did their homework when they designed the Celilo, and created a rod with numerous features that hark back to a simpler time, or as Okuma states, "designed with care and precision for the perfect standard models. We make your selection simple so do as your grandpa did, and GO FISH!"

One of the first thing we noticed about the rod was the use of high quality components like cherry wood inserts and dense high modulus graphite not normally found in a rod of this price. In addition the rod features a nice contoured cork grip that feels right at home in your hand. We loved the fighting butt because it provided more comfort while fishing, and also could be easily removed if desired, many other rods don't give you this flexibility. Most noticeable of all was the strong base of the rod which is designed not only to muscle large fish but also allow you to cast those large flies a mile. One thing that we did notice was that the clamp would do a very good job of holding the reel while fishing, but was difficult to remove when breaking down. Also, while not the most sensitive rod we have fished with, the Celilo is incredible in terms of performance for value ratio when you bear in mind the amazing sub 70 dollar price!

Removing the spool is as quick as pulling forward on the pin switch

The Reel Feel: Here's where things really got interesting. The Okuma Integrity is unlike any traditional fly reel we have ever fished with due to a unique drag system which affects the entire feel of the reel. Leave it to Okuma to find a way to incorporate their proven spinning drags into a fly reel. (more about the drag below). The reel is heavier then some competitor reels, but feels solid in your hand. Spool changes are easy via a quick pull of a small switch. Because the reel makes use of bearings it feels silky smooth and all moving parts can be lubricated quickly and easily. The reel can take a lot of abuse thanks to a stainless steel spool shaft which isn't going to flex even with the largest fish tugging on the other side. The spool handle is constructed of attractively polished wood and feels good in your fingers, even when wet.

When we first opened the reel we thought that the internal drag system would be susceptible to foreign material like sand and grit entering the structure, but our tests proved us wrong. Even when dipped into sand infused water no grains made it into the drag. Okuma effectively protects the drag with a surrounding graphite cap which the spool locks into. In addition Okuma has weatherproofed the reel so that it can be fished in saltwater, (so surf fishing for stripers is no problem) and is also a good choice for Florida Bonefish and Tarpon anglers.

The innovative drag system is protected from foreign material by a graphite cap

The Cast: Combined with Scientific Angler's Mastery line (which is weighted like wire) the Celilo is a confident caster. The tip of this rod is good at bringing your fly up and back, and even better at forcing line forward and down into your target zone. When fly fishing for stripers it sometimes make sense to further weigh down your tippet with one or two split-shots, this not only causes your fly to sink faster and deeper but also helps you cast farther in windy conditions.

The Celilo has a matte finish and is well reinforced at the base and at all guides

The Integrity reel is easy to pull line from and can be set with minimal drag pressure so line rolls smoothly with good inertial start-up but wont backlash your main line. While casting in windy conditions will undoubtedly do a real number on your arm, the contoured cork grip does help you maintain a comfortable grip on the rod.

Large Striper flies are easily stowed on the hook hanger

The Retrieve: To work subsurface flies I strip in one foot at a time as erratically as possible (similar to fishing a jerk bait). Don't be afraid to pull faster or harder, these are not shy fish...and will rise up to strike when properly enticed with the opportunity to engulf what they think are injured baitfish. When fishing for stripers I prefer to strip the fly and smaller fish in by hand, but when the large fish get a hold of the fly it is time to turn to your reel for support. The Integrity offers drag free retrieval which we found can even be adjusted even during a fight by palming over the reel and rotating the uniquely large handle of the star drag!

The drag can actually be adjusted while palming the reel, thanks to the enlarged star design

The Drag: Unlike traditional gear or cork drags the Integrity makes use of a one way disc drag system complete with a roller bearing. The function is similar to an infinite anti-reverse in a spinning reel. While we were initially skeptical to the feel of such a system we quickly changed our minds when we saw how smooth the drag could apply vast amounts of constant pressure. 

Going through all the motions; casting, positioning, retrieving, and reeling

Fish On: Small Stripers will hit the lure and thrash violently below the surface trying to break free, while the larger fish will hit the lure like a freight train and use brute force to challenge you and your tackle to an exciting game of tug of war. During our tests we hooked up tons of schoolies (small stripers), it seemed every time the wind picked up just a bit the fish would feel more confident to strike. After going through what seemed like endless diminutive fish I eventually hooked into a substantial striper that stripped line and pulled the rod tip towards the water as it unexpectedly turned and ran right under the boat!

Zander clears the line from the boat edge as the striper pulls down with great force on the Celilo rod tip as it goes right under the boat stripping more line!

The Celilo rod tip flexed under the pressure of the lunker but the base of the rod still had plenty of muscle to keep the rod up and line tight, preventing the fish from shaking the fly. During the fight there was an audible rapid "click, click, click" of the drag as the Integrity released line as the fish ran. I palmed the Integrity waiting for the fish to begin to tire out, and as he slowed to regain himself I began gaining ground by reeling in more line then he could strip in each subsequent burst. Finally when the fish was within reach TT Editor, JIP, was able to position a net under the fish right as my flashtail popped off the lip of the fish whipping me backward and the fish into the center of the net....what a landing!

The Okuma Celilo/Integrity combo can handle large Stripers with confidence

Noticeable Okuma Benefits: After two days of fishing the Okuma Celilo/Integrity Combo we were impressed with the durability of both products. The biggest benefit of the Integrity is the unique drag system which is reliable, problem free, and very easy to maintain. There is no oiling of cork, or worrying about foreign materials interfering with this reel's operation. While unconventional, this design really works. Another benefit we noted was pure rod fighting power, the Celilo is designed to take some serious abuse from hard hitting fish and never show a scar. The high modulus graphite is tough as nails and sports a butt foundation that inspires confidence when fighting large fish.

Ratings: (Combo Rated as a complete pair)

Okuma Celilo/Integrity Fly Combo Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Good construction of both elements of this combo. The Integrity reel feels a bit heavy but solid, and the Celilo is durable. 8
Performance Casting this rod can be a bit tiring but once a fish is hooked on you will appreciate the sheer fighting power offered by the strong construction. The Integrity's drag performance and adjustment settings are well done. 8.5
Price Okuma is the king of good value and this setup can be had for under 150.00 dollars! That is an incredible bargain for a combo that looks, feels, and fishes like a setup costing two or three times as much! 10
Features The drag adjustment and construction may not appeal to fly-fishing purists but many will relish the trouble free performance and reliability. 9
Design (Ergonomics)

Well designed reel allows drag adjustment while fishing, and a comfortable grip on the Celilo rod makes casting easier. The removable fighting butt is icing on the cake.

9
Application This rod is for fighting big fish and is just at home tackling stripers as it is for flat fishing for bonefish and Tarpon. 9

Total Score

8.91


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Amazing Value! L Integrity a bit heavy
J Innovative Drag that works! L Celilo reel clamp hard to disengage
J Good rod material quality  
J Very strong rod fighting power  
J Good ergonomics (removable fighting butt)  


Conclusion: Fly Fishing for stripers can put a real strain on your tackle. These fish can reach mammoth proportions, and possess fighting power that far exceeds their size. Striper fly fishing demands reliable, durable, and refined tackle, and Okuma truly delivers all these factors with a price tag that will blow your mind. With both the Integrity and Celilo together costing less then 150.00 dollars, anyone can get into Striper fishing with quality fly outfit without going broke. The quality and innovative features of these products are competitive with reels costing twice as much, and the unique drag is built to last. Overall Okuma has a well designed solution weighing in with exceptional value, that just begs to be fished with. It is no surprise that Okuma is the only manufacturer to date to ever win two of TackleTour's best value awards with this fine fly fishing recipe.
 

Until next time, Tight Lines.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 
 





 

 



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